Tag Archives: proprioception

Teddy’s journey: core strength

Teddy continues to be a happy boy.  During his appointment this week, we discussed two aspects of Teddy’s rehabilitation:

  • Variety/mental stimulation
  • Core strength

Jill remarked that she and Teddy now have a routine, but it means the same walk every day in the same location, and of course adjusting to limiting his activities to avoid stress and strain on his joints.

The solution:  variety!  Teddy’s is a smart boy and he needs jobs to keep him mentally active.  Little things like distributing food around the house and garden for him to find will provide Teddy with stimulation and something else to do.  Changing paddocks for Teddy’s walks and even getting other dogs to visit with him for play dates will also give Teddy variety in his day-to-day life.

And, as mentioned last week, Teddy needs greater core strength.  I showed Jill the value of supervised balancing exercises using a large peanut-sized ball from the FitPaws range.  These exercises, done on a soft surface that ‘wobbles’ slightly, require Teddy to balance on his 3 remaining legs.  In doing so, it means he works on his core muscles to keep his body steady.

I want greater core strength in Teddy before progressing to exercises for his proprioception.

And in case you missed it, I’ve already answered What’s proprioception?

Teddy concentrates as Jill helps him to balance

Teddy concentrates as Jill helps him to balance


Teddy core strength photo

Teddy’s a little unsure about these exercises, but trusts Jill

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

More about spinal cord injury

This video, courtesy of the University of California San Francisco,  shows the gait effects of  spinal cord injury and a very good close up of the proprioception test that is used by vets.   (See my previous blog about prioprioception here.)

Spinal cord research benefits dogs

Last week, the University of California San Francisco issued a press release about the promising research of Dr Linda J Noble-Haeusslein and her collaborators at Texas A&M  University.

The US Department of Defense has granted $750,000 over three years to develop a drug that helps to mitigate the secondary damage associated with spinal cord injury.  When an injury occurs, there is a cascading chemical reaction that damages nearby cells and that means – essentially – that more damage happens than that caused by the immediate injury.

It is thought that the drug, a protein-blocking agent, will successfully interfere with that cascading process and preserve sensitive neurological pathways.

Other neurological researchers have shown that movement in the spine can be preserved if as little as 18-20 percent of nerve fibre tracts remain intact.

Dogs such as Dachshunds, Corgis and Beagles (dogs with a long torso) are known to be susceptible to disc ruptures.   When a dog presents with a disc rupture at the Small Animal Hospital at Texas A&M University, their owner will be asked to consent to the experimental treatment.

And why is the funding coming from the Department of Defence?  Well, sadly, there are many wounded soldiers returning from overseas war zones with spinal injuries.

Source:  University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) (2012, January 18). Saving dogs with spinal cord injuries. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/01/120118155338.htm

What’s proprioception?

Proprioception is the awareness of how your body, particularly your limbs, are oriented and how your body moves.  A type of self-awareness.  And your dog has it too!

When your dog next goes to the vet for an exam, watch how the vet will support the dog’s body and lift the hind paw, placing it on its toes or more of an upside down position.  Then watch your dog replace its paw to its normal position.  Your vet is looking for how quickly your dog does this and a dog with normal proprioception will replace its paw almost immediately.  Dogs with a neurological deficit will take longer.  Sometimes this isn’t a problem, and sometimes it is a sign that something is going wrong.  It depends on what other symptoms your dog has.

Other symptoms of a proprioceptive deficit include a wearing of the toe nails in an abnormal pattern (I see this a lot in my massage practice) or a strange posture when your dog goes to sleep (paws or legs in an abnormal position).

There are exercises that you can do to enhance your dog’s proprioception.  This includes walking over sticks or ladders as seen in this YouTube video:

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand